The new Year of the Ram stamp from the United States Postal Service will be issued Feb. 7 in San Francisco, Calif. It will be sold nationwide on the same day.
A first-day ceremony is scheduled to begin at 11 a.m. at the Chinese Culture Center, on the third floor at 750 Kearny St.
The year of the ram (alternately called the year of the goat or the year of the sheep) begins Feb. 19, 12 days after the stamp is issued, and continues until Feb. 7, 2016.
The multicolor nondenominated (49¢) forever stamp is the eighth in the current Lunar New Year series (which began in 2008), and just the second of those eight to be offset-printed with a microprinted element.
The 2009 43¢ Year of the Ox stamp, like the new Year of the Ram stamp, was offset-printed by Banknote Corporation of America for USPS contract printer Sennett Security Products. The remaining six stamps were printed by Avery Dennison (supplanted by CCL Label in 2014) using the gravure process.
The current New Year series is the second for the Postal Service. The first, featuring vignette illustrations of paper-cut animals by Clarence Lee, began in 1992 and ended in 2006.
Each stamp in the second series (since 2008) shows a celebratory design emblematic of Asian culture. The new stamp shows the chuen-hop, or tray of togetherness. The Postal Service describes this as a wooden candy tray filled with dried fruits, candies and other treats “to provide a sweet beginning to the new year.”
In her book Chinese New Year, Tricia Brown writes of the chuen-hop, “Traditionally, it has eight compartments, each with a special food item significant to the season.”
The painting used for the illustration was created by Kam Mak, who has prepared all of the illustrations for the second series. Born in Hong Kong, Mak grew up in New York City’s Chinatown after his family moved to the United States in 1971.
Ethel Kessler served as the U.S. Postal Service art director for the Year of the Ram stamp, and as designer and typographer.
George Amick described the design of the current Lunar New Year series in his Linn’s U.S. Stamp Yearbook 2010.
“The design style … shows the subject against a solid-color background that bleeds off the stamp’s left and right edges, with a band of metallic gold color across the top and bottom edges. The words ‘LUNAR NEW YEAR’ run vertically up the right side, and ‘USA’ and the denomination are in the lower left corner. On the pane, the block of 12 stamps is surrounded by a border of metallic gold, with the caption ‘CELEBRATING LUNAR NEW YEAR’ at the top. All the type is in the Trajan font.”
With the introduction of the nondenominated forever stamp to the series in 2011, the “Forever” designation, replacing the denomination, appears in small letters at lower right.
The margin of the pane of 12 stamps shows one each of the 12 cut-paper creatures designed and created by Clarence Lee for the first series of U.S. Lunar New Year stamps.
The single animal corresponding to the lunar year represented by the new stamp is also featured at upper left in the individual stamp design. This year, of course, that animal is the ram.
Directly below that creature is the name of the animal, “ram,” in Kanji characters, rendered in grass-style calligraphy by Lau Bun, who has created this element of the design for the previous stamps in the series.
The small year date 2015 on the Year of the Ram stamp is in black, reading upward near the upper right corner.
Banknote Corporation of America printed approximately 17.6 million stamps, the same quantity that was printed of the Year of the Horse stamp for 2014.
A standard four-bar first-day cancel will be available. A digital color first-day postmark will show a large reversed image of the paper-cut ram.
Press sheets, both with and without the die cuts that normally separate individual stamps, will be issued for the Year of the Ram stamp. Each press sheet consists of 12 panes and sells for $70.56.
Only 500 press sheets of each type are available.
In contrast, last year’s press sheets for the Year of the Horse stamp were printed in quantities of 2,500 for each variety.
Technical details and first-day postmark information for the Year of the Ram stamp follow.
Nondenominated (49¢) Year of the Ram stamp
FIRST DAY— Feb. 7, 2015; city— San Francisco, Calif., and nationwide.
DESIGN: illustrator— Kam Mak, Brooklyn, N.Y.; designer, art director and typographer— Ethel Kessler, Bethesda, Md.; modeler— Donald Woo; series— Lunar New Year.
PRINTING: process— offset with microprinting; printer and processor— Banknote Corporation of America for Sennett Security Products, Browns Summit, N.C.; press— Alprinta 74; inks— cyan, magenta, yellow, black, Pantone Matching System 872 gold; paper— phosphor tagged, overall; gum— self-adhesive; issue quantity— 17,600,400 stamps; format— pane of 12, from 144-subject cylinders; size— 1.42 inches by 0.84 inches (image); 1.56 inches by 0.98 inches (overall); 7.24 inches by 5.92 inches (full pane); plate numbers— none; marginal markings— “Celebrating Lunar New Year” (stamp side); “©2014 USPS,” USPS logo, header “Celebrating Lunar New Year,” short summary of Lunar New Year, bar code 588900, promotional text (back side); USPS item No.— 588904.
First-day cancel ordering information
Standard ordering instructions apply. Collectors requesting first-day cancels are encouraged to purchase their own stamps and affix them to envelopes. The first-day cover envelopes should be addressed for return (a removable label may be used), and mailed in a larger envelope addressed to Lunar New Year: Year of the Ram Stamp, Attention: Station Manager, Chinatown Station, 867 Stockton St., San Francisco, CA 94108-9998.
Requests for first-day cancels must be postmarked by April 8.
The Postal Service’s uncacheted first-day cover for the Year of the Ram stamp is item 588916 at 93¢. USPS order numbers for stamps and FDCs also appear in Linn’s 2015 U.S. Stamp Program.